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An important message from Chancellor Nicholas B. Dirks

Dear Campus Community,

As the spring semester begins I want to update you on the steps we have been taking to strengthen the campus’s response to sexual violence and assault.  Students and administrators have been working diligently to create a culture of prevention, support, and accountability. While there is certainly more to do, we are making progress thanks to our community’s engagement, concern and participation.

New Confidential Survivor Advocate

Last spring I announced the creation of a dedicated, full-time position that would serve as a resource for survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment. In fall 2014, Mari Knuth-Bouracee began work as the new director of sexual assault prevention and student advocacy. As the confidential advocate, she supports survivors in accessing the resources they need, and explains reporting options available on and off our campus. In addition, she will play a key role in enhancing our prevention and awareness efforts for everyone on our campus. You can learn more about Knuth-Bouracee, a certified rape crisis and domestic violence counselor who has spent significant time as an advocate for social justice and gender equity, and her office here.

Mandatory Prevention Education

This fall UC Berkeley began holding all first-year undergraduate students (freshmen and transfer students) accountable for successfully completing an educational program in sexual assault/violence prevention; first-year students who fail to take this training face a registration block until they complete the training. All of our currently enrolled fall 2014 freshmen and transfer students have completed the needed training and we encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with the full range of programs available on campus. You can learn more here.

National Conference on Campus Sexual Assault and Violence

On February 24-25, UC Berkeley will host the National Conference on Campus Sexual Assault and Violence. This conference will bring together scholars, trainers, activists, survivors, elected officials, and university professionals committed to addressing this issue. The focus of the conference is on sharing best practices in terms of prevention, cultural change, and the need to go beyond basic legal compliance. We are honored to be hosting this event, and are looking forward to learning from our peers so we can bring innovative ideas and programs to our community.

CalGreeks Forum

In November, more than 150 members of the CalGreeks community, housing corporations, regional/international headquarters, as well as other campus and community partners, participated in a forum designed to facilitate collaborative development of new strategies to combat sexual violence. The Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils voted to require sexual assault prevention training for all members each semester, and our LEAD Center is now working closely with these organizations to develop effective curricula and ensure these trainings take place.

Campus Awareness Activities

The ASUC Sexual Assault Commission has launched Cal Consent, a student-led campaign to increase awareness of sexual assault and violence and promote a culture of consent. Separately, Berkeley’s “It’s on Us” campaign is being implemented in conjunction with the White House’s national effort. This educational program focuses on individuals making a personal commitment while calling for a campus-wide culture of prevention, support, and accountability. You can get an overview of campus prevention and response efforts here.

University of California Office of the President Task Force

In June 2014, President Janet Napolitano issued a call for the University of California to be a leader in prevention and response to sexual violence and sexual assault. This resulted in the formation of the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault. I want to thank all of the students, staff, and faculty who have been involved with this task force and its associated working groups that are working to make meaningful changes. You can read more about the task force here.

Share Your Feedback

Finally, on February 3 and 4, 2015, US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) staff will be on campus to hear from students as part of its review of the University’s compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, known as “Title IX.” Title IX prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence such as rape and sexual assault, battery, and coercion.

The OCR is gathering information necessary to understand the campus climate with respect to sexual violence, Berkeley’s preventative measures, and how the University responds to notice of possible sexual violence. OCR staff will be speaking with representatives of certain student groups during pre-scheduled meetings, while individual students are invited to drop in and share their experiences, impressions, and ideas during office hours. Students will soon receive a detailed email invitation from Vice Chancellor Harry Le Grande to contribute to the OCR’s efforts, and you can visit the website to learn more.

Even as our collective efforts continue, I am greatly encouraged by the advocacy of our students and feel confident that the UC system is making significant progress in how we address this critical issue. Together, we can and will continue building a campus culture that fully supports consent and respect, as well as accountability for those who commit acts of violence.


Nicholas Dirks